‘Tis the season for gingerbread houses, either homemade or from a kit, decorated with gum drops and peppermint. But those look like child’s play compared to the gingerbread New York City that award-winning gingerbread architect (yes, that’s a thing!) Beatriz Muller erected in the window of the Columbus Circle Williams Sonoma this year, a project built in partnership with StreetEasy.
One-Hundred Percent Edible NYC
Built entirely from real edible gingerbread over two months, “Gingerbread City” required Muller to make more than 200 pounds of gingerbread, more than 60 pounds of royal icing, and 10 pounds of gumpaste and pastillage. The whole thing weighs about 300 pounds and is over 6′ tall.
All Built to Scale
Of course Muller included iconic New York buildings — all measured and built to scale — like the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, the Chrysler Building, the Woolworth Building and the Statue of Liberty; the Time Warner Center is smack in the middle. But it’s the details that truly evoke the essence of the city.
Keen eyes will spot a building under construction, garbage bags on the sidewalks, tourists taking pictures, and even Santas wandering the streets. The trees were constructed from dried dill and rosemary herbs, while the Christmas tree in the middle of Gingerbread City was hand-piped using royal icing.
We touched base with gingerbread architect Beatriz Muller to get a behind-the-scenes look at how she created such a detailed and impressive Gingerbread City.
WS: What was the most challenging part about building the Gingerbread City?
BM: The hardest part of building the gingerbread city was designing the buildings as accurately as possible using Google earth as my guide. I was able to find some information on the web regarding the buildings’ general measurements like height and width, but not much else. I used these measurements as my guide to scale down the buildings and a keen eye on the tablet screen to figure out the rest.
WS: Do you do anything to your gingerbread recipe to make it sturdy enough for this kind of construction?
BM: I make traditional soft gingerbread cookies and not construction gingerbread. Cookies are baked at a lower temperature so they are a little bit crisper but still soft. The secret to building such big and tall buildings with soft gingerbread cookies lies in erecting the right internal edible structure that will support the soft cookies. I do this by baking gingerbread posts and beams as well as making pastillage beams to support weight bearing walls.
WS: What kind of frosting do you use?
BM: I use royal icing to glue the pieces, as well as some of the exterior work and decorations. I also use fondant for the trim work.
WS: Tips for home bakers working on a smaller scale?
BM: My advice for home bakers is to start off small. Researching different artichectural and construction techniques will help with basic gingerbread structures. I have many years of experience watching my husband build houses, and those learned skills makes all the difference.